Monday, July 27, 2009

Natural-born storyteller who was true to her heart

By Ong Sor Fen

Yasmin Ahmad was presented with the special jury award at Anugerah Skrin 2008. - AZHAR MAHFOF - 26 July, 2009

Yasmin Ahmad, one of the very few local filmmakers who has garnered both international acclaim as well as success at home. - 26 July, 2009

Award-winning film directors Yasmin Ahmad and Ho Yu Hang presented the awards for best music video at the 2006 PWH Music Awards at Putra Indoor Stadium, Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur. - SIA HONG KIAU/THE STAR - 26 July, 2009

Yasmin Ahmad with one of her touching TV commercials, "Tan Hon Ming in Love". - SAM THAM /THE STAR - 26 July, 2009

A scene taken from the latest TV commercial produced by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry and directed by prolific director Yasmin Ahmad which received overwhelming response from the public. - 26 July, 2009

JULY 27 — Anyone lucky enough to meet her, and know her, was immediately swept into her generous embrace and proffered that most precious of all commodities, her time.

Unfortunately, time was something the 51-year-old did not have. She died two nights ago after collapsing two days before that.

Fans who know her through her heartwarming, award-winning films will regret the loss of movies yet to come from the film-maker who got into her celluloid groove late in life.

Before her untimely death, Yasmin was preparing to shoot her first movie to be made in Singapore, titled Go, Thaddeus!.

Working in Singapore was something that she felt very strongly about as Singaporean audiences have always been warmly receptive to her movies, since her first arthouse hit, Sepet (2004), debuted in cinemas here.

That movie, a sweet romance between a Chinese video pirate and a middle-class Malay girl, was my first introduction to Yasmin, literally: I met her after a press screening of the film and we became friends.

Even if one had not met Yasmin, one could know her through her movies. She raided her personal life for film subjects. Her feature film debut, Rabun (2002), is based on her parents' affectionate marriage which she always cited as her true inspiration.

Sepet was inspired partly by her own love life. The movie's warm inclusiveness — a tolerant vision of how the barriers of ethnicities and cultures can be easily crossed — sprang from her own optimism about people and her benevolent tolerance of diversity. Born in Muar, Johor, and educated in the United Kingdom, she was cosmopolitan in her outlook but strove to retain the simple values of a kampung girl.

More than mere biographical details, every movie she made reflected her open heart, her lively curiosity about people and her sentimental nature.

She was always receptive to new experiences and new people. In conversations with people, she soaked up information like a sponge. She had a habit of charming waiters and salespeople into offering that extra, special little service that no one else would receive.

She smoked like a chimney stack and had a smoker's deep, chest-rattling cough. Yet her raspy voice could mellow into a beautiful singing voice.

She could be loud and uninhibited. She once yelled across a busy road with four lanes of traffic to get my attention and she had a hearty boom of a laugh that exploded often and at great volume. But she was also an observant Muslim who was always dressed in the demure baju kurung.

A fan of Bellini operas and Nina Simone's slinky jazz stylings, she was equally in tune with her Asian roots. She loved to surprise people with her smattering of Chinese dialects and Mandarin. She was looking forward to shooting a movie later this year in Japan, a land which she had always felt a connection with as one of her grandmothers was Japanese.

While she could discourse at length about intellectual topics, she was also unashamedly sentimental — a big fan of five-hankie weepies who would sms at all hours just to share her response to a movie she had just seen and cried over.

One of the few directors who could also write — Yasmin had written every one of her six movies — she had been an incredibly prolific film-maker, churning out movies at the rate of one a year in the last five years. It seemed as if once she had discovered this celluloid outlet, she could not stop telling stories.

Fans and friends will mourn the untimely silencing of this natural-born storyteller. But more than the movies she will never make, I mourn the loss of this vibrant woman who had such joie de vivre and shared so much of herself with the people she loved. — The Straits Times


aieti said...
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azraie said...

It's a huge loss of the advertisement and film industry when Malaysian was shocked of her deceased last saturday after endured in ICU after her major brain operation. Her magical touches in every works done have captured a lot of people hearts when she had comes out with very remarkable piece of creative advertisement and film outstanding performance. Her existence in the industry wasn't happened not in purpose but bringing huge messages of 1Malaysia to unite diverse races in Malaysia. Personally, I'm not even done enjoying what else she can comes out with. She's like our late P.Ramlee in film way.

May her soul rest in peace. :(